Translating novel collective behaviour measures to concepts and principles of play as understood by football coaches

Martin Corsie, Michael Malone, Paul A. Swinton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Downloads (Pure)


A range of innovative performance analysis metrics have been applied in recent years to investigate aspects of football using tempo-spatial and network analyses. These approaches have gained traction within some professional teams to quantify and assess features of collective behaviour. However, metrics employed are rarely created from, or clearly link to, domain expertise and as a result coaches may be hesitant of their value. Therefore, the aim of this study was to identify coach perceptions of spatial temporal and network metrics and identify the feasibility of an iterative and collaborative process to developing metrics.

Two rounds of semi-structured interviews were conducted with three Scottish youth international UEFA Pro License coaches (age: 47.0?±?2.7 years) with a focus on aligning metrics with concepts and principles of play. An iterative approach was used centring around spatial-temporal and network metrics and their adaptation. Reflexive thematic analyses were conducted with final metrics categorized as resonant (accurately describing concept or principles of play), relevant (appropriate but with limitations that need improvement), or hesitant (skeptical of usefulness).

Across the ten recognized principles of play, nine metrics were identified and adapted to varying degrees. Resonant metrics included: network intensity (mobility), distance between defenders (discipline), triangles (support), team length and distance between deepest defender and goal line (depth).

Coaches recognize principles of play within complex collective behaviour metrics and should be encouraged to collaborate with analysts to develop support systems that may prove to be more valuable and usable.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Science and Coaching
Early online date21 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2024

Cite this